The RDR has smashed the banks as a force in advice so far as the vast middle ground of consumers is concerned. Many highly qualified and experienced bank advisers have been displaced, including many female advisers.
The banks had deep pockets when it came to training and after a few stiff fines they even developed a rigorous compliance mentality, which was impressed deeply on their advisers.
I have worked with many women in this profession over the years. Proportionately, they have been under-represented in the more senior positions but from what I’ve seen, they have always punched well above their weight intellectually. In my DBS days I was the investment bod in DBS’s research and technical support department, but the top spots on pensions, protection and tax and trusts were all held by women, all of whom were better at passing exams than I shall ever be.
It is dangerous to generalise but in my experience women in this profession are also on the whole more ethical in the treatment of clients than many of their male counterparts. They also tend to be more loyal and conscientious where their employers are concerned.
All this at a time when the potential customer base consists of a higher proportion of well-educated, professional and higher-earning women than at any time in history.
So why are women so under-represented in our profession, forming only 17 per cent of advisers, according to one estimate?
More than anything else, I believe it is a simple lack of vision. Despite all the equality legislation of the past 40 years, most business owners are men. They view as a nuisance, at best, the prospect that they might have to modify their business to employ women who may want a slightly more flexible approach to the working day.
Nobody in their right mind would ever declare these as reasons for not employing a female adviser, of course, except perhaps Alan Sugar, but he can afford the tribunals.
All the same, if the male owners of most adviser businesses are honest, that is the real reason why women advisers are in a minority. But where is the vision? Last year I was called by a redundant female HSBC adviser with 17 years’ experience, more qualifications than me, all the attributes I’ve listed and a spouse and three kids, as I have.
I wasn’t actually looking for anyone at the time but after meeting her, I instantly created a job. Yes, we have made some accommodations. Charlotte gets Friday afternoons off for more family time and she only does visits to corporate clients at their business premises. It’s a small price to pay and this is where us being a small firm is such an advantage.
We have the ability to be more flexible and responsive than any larger firm can ever be and, if you run a small business, so do you.
Neil Liversidge is managing director of West Riding Personal Financial Solutions